After finishing fourth on synchronized platform at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, Krysta Palmer was determined to keep going for another Olympic cycle. Standing on the deck, Palmer and her then synchro partner, Tarrin Gilliland, posed for a photo while holding up “2020” with their fingers.
Make that 2021.
Five years later, with U.S. Olympic Diving Trials in full swing, Palmer is on track to make her first Olympic team.
After two rounds of competition, Palmer, 28, is in first place in both individual springboard and synchronized springboard (alongside partner Alison Gibson).
The top two finishers in individual springboard (based on cumulative score) and top pair in synchro (also cumulative score) will be named to the U.S. Olympic diving team for the Tokyo Games.
The final of synchronized springboard is Thursday night (7pm on Olympic Channel 7pm ET), while individual springboard concludes on Saturday (4pm ET on NBC).
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Palmer’s revised dream: from gymnastics to trampoline to diving
Palmer, who grew up in Carson City, Nevada, first wanted to compete at the Olympics as a gymnast. When a knee injury put that dream on hold, she turned to trampoline, a sport that made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Palmer says she was the kid who always begged her coaches to spend a few minutes on the trampoline at the end of gymnastics practice. “Three minutes would turn into 30 minutes,” she told NBC Olympics research in 2019.
She made it further in trampoline than she had in gymnastics, qualifying for the U.S. junior national team in 2007 and going on to compete internationally.
Then came another knee injury which “kind of pushed me out of trampoline,” Palmer explained.
A high school friend convinced her to join him at a local pool for a diving lesson. “I didn’t see myself being a diver at all,” she said. “That first dive I did, I was like, ‘Wow, this is something that I feel like I truly enjoy.'”
That was eight years ago.
Palmer first focused on platform, which was tough for her to practice given that the nearest 10-meter tower was nearly four hours away from where she was living in Nevada.
She had run into a similar problem in trampoline; the gym where she trained didn’t have high enough ceilings for her to practice all of her routines.
“You need the right equipment to go all the way and my coach just kept saying, ‘Give springboard time.'”
Finally, it clicked. Two years after finishing 43rd on springboard at 2015 U.S. Winter Nationals, Palmer qualified to represent the United States at the 2017 World Championships.
Since 2017, Palmer has been one of the U.S. team’s most consistent competitors, finishing in the top six of every national springboard competition she has entered.
Heading into tonight’s synchronized final, Palmer and Gibson will enter with a 21.45 lead over second-place pair Sarah Bacon and Kassidy Cook. Palmer has amassed an even larger lead – 61 points – heading into Saturday’s individual springboard final.
Watch Krysta Palmer compete at U.S. Olympic Diving Trials
Women’s Synchronized Springboard Final:
Women’s Individual Springboard Final:
Saturday, June 12, 2021 at 4pm: NBC | STREAMING
The full U.S. Olympic Trials TV and streaming schedule can be found here.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC